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Unequal and opposite reactions: Police tackle 45K,show what they could’ve done on Aug 11

Under attack from Raj Thackeray,Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik on Tuesday justified restraining policemen on August 11 after a protest meeting organised by Raza Academy,an Islamic organisation,turned violent.

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai | Published: August 22, 2012 7:39:20 am

Under attack from Raj Thackeray,Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik on Tuesday justified restraining policemen on August 11 after a protest meeting organised by Raza Academy,an Islamic organisation,turned violent.

“As Mumbai Police Commissioner,all police personnel are my family. While I am anguished that there were attacks on them,the fingers of some policemen were on their triggers and I had to ensure that they did not fire. The situation would have gone out of hand if they had fired. The situation had to be handled,” he said.

Patnaik said he would not comment on Thackeray’s attacks on him in his speech at Azad Maidan. “He (Thackeray) has done what he had to as a politician. We have ensured that the rally was peaceful.”

The manner in which the police controlled an estimated 45,000 protesters on Tuesday contrasted sharply with their showing at the same venue 10 days ago when a far smaller group had been allowed to run riot,with Patnaik personally preventing top officers from cracking down.

The force was caught napping despite intelligence inputs warning of large crowds and a charged atmosphere before the violence erupted.

Former Mumbai Police chief Julio Ribeiro told The Indian Express,“A deployment of 650 policemen (on August 11) is not small. However,it was clear that the police were caught by surprise and were not prepared for the kind of violence that took place.”

Former commissioner M N Singh,who had refused permission to the BJP for rallies in the city after the Gujarat riots,said there was no “mathematical formula” to determine what sort of deployment would be adequate for a certain number of protesters.

“However,in my opinion,the protest was planned on a very sensitive issue,and I would have even gone to the extent of denying permission for it. Any mob congregation is a potential threat to law and order,and one should prepare for the worst,” Singh said.

As many as 5,000 police personnel were deployed for Tuesday’s MNS protest,nearly eight times the number on August 11. Besides local police,three companies of anti-riot Rapid Action Force,fully prepared with gas masks,fibre shields and body armour,were stationed at entry points to the maidan. Rapid Intervention Vehicles were kept ready at strategic locations around the venue.

Police had said that a group “outside the venue” had sparked the August 11 violence by torching a media van. On Tuesday,IPS officers were seen marching outside the venue to ensure there was no “stationary crowd”. The area where media vans were parked was cordoned off with the SRPF standing guard.

On August 11,Patnaik gave Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 1) Ravindra Shisve an earful after the officer nabbed a rioter. The dressing-down given to the IPS officer in front of rioters and the constabulary was captured by news photographers,and the footage was uploaded on YouTube.

On Tuesday,Shisve played a key role in the police arrangements,roping in and personally briefing volunteers from the MNS to help in controlling the crowd.

Unlike the earlier protest,local policemen and SRPF personnel turned out in full riot gear on Tuesday. A CCTV camera was seen positioned strategically outside the main entrance to the maidan. It wasn’t there on August 11.

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